“Son, you need to get your room clean before you can go play outside. Please go and get it done right away.”
From there, the conversation can go anywhere. Parent and child have officially entered into negative negotiations and from this dismal point, it’s highly unlikely that both participants will leave the conversation feeling valued and respected. Most likely, one party will win out at the other’s expense. Voices might raise and feelings of frustration are already nipping on the heels of both parent and child.
It’s a frustrating scenario played over and over in my house and in homes all across the country. So, what gives? Surely, there must be a better way! After all, Jesus has called us to love our children and provide instruction all without exasperating them or devaluing them as a person. On the flip side, God has also called kids to honor and obey their parents.
With 5 kids ranging from ages 3-11, my husband and I have had countless opportunities to make mistakes in this area, but we’ve also discovered some tools that have helped us head in the right direction of shaping our children’s hearts in a God-honoring way as well as build up our relationship with them as individuals.
At an early age, we start playing the “OK Game”. Though it’s ideal to start young, this idea can be implemented at any elementary and even early middle school age. First, we set aside some specific time for “practice”.
The Goal: To practice what it feels and sounds like to be obedient the very first time by having the immediate verbal response of “OK” coupled with the physical response of immediately moving towards doing that requested action. No matter what!
Parent: “Bring me your dirty dishes.”
Child: “Okay, dad”
Parent: “Bring me that soccer ball from the hallway”
Child: “Okay, mom”
Parent: “Take that balloon and fill it with ketchup”
Child: “Okay, dad”
Parent: “Go mess up your dad’s hair”
Child: “Okay, mom”
You get the idea!
The Outcome: Kids realize that obedience is expected right away without delay.
One of our most popular reminders is that “Delayed obedience is disobedience.”
Once kids have mastered this step of understanding that obedience is expected right away, the first time, we give kids the privilege of having something known as the “Wise Appeal”. This approach was introduced to us in Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller’s book, “Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes In You and Your Kids”.
The Wise Appeal gives kids, especially older ones, the ability to negotiate without disrespecting you as a parent. What kid doesn’t want that? (Or what parent for that matter!) The Wise Appeal approach is a privilege that can be revoked if the child is using it as manipulation. Generally, taking away this privilege is enough of a consequence that further consequences don’t even need to take place. It’s a Win/Win for Mom, Dad, and child!
Real Life Scenario:
Parent: “Hey Jamie, I need you to go clean your room before dinner.”
Jamie: “Okay, mom” (the immediate respectful obedience is still expected verbally and physically)
Jamie, while getting up to go clean her room, respectfully states: “I understand that you want me to go clean my room right now but I have a problem with that.
Parent: “Okay, Jamie. What’s your problem with that?”
Jamie: “May I finish this game first before I go clean my room?”
Parent: “That sounds reasonable to me if you’ll be finished in about 5 minutes.”
Both parties leave the conversation feeling valued and respected and God is honored.
When it comes to parenting, none of us want to “bulldoze” our children with demands, but we do want their obedience. The OK game coupled with the Wise Appeal help us to train our children to be obedient and respectful in a way that will shape the rest of their lives. We may even be training our grandchildren at the same time! As parents, focusing on our children’s hearts by keeping communication open, builds relationships that will have a foundation that will last through the teen years and into adulthood. That goal is definitely worth the time and consistency to implement now!
Battling The “Why?”
Another benefit of using these two techniques is that it puts a swift end, in a respectful way, to the “Why” question kids often ask to derail obedience. On the few times that our kids have answered a request from us with a “why”, our response is that they did not use a wise appeal.
Parent: Jacob, you need to sweep this floor please.”
Jacob: “But why mom? It looks clean enough to me and I’m playing Legos right now anyways.”
Parent: “Jacob, you did not use a wise appeal. I’m happy to have a conversation with you, but for this moment you have lost wise appeals because you did not respond respectfully or with obedience. Come sweep the floor right away.”
At this point, if Jacob continues to badger his parent, further consequences come in to play immediately. He could lose his Legos, be confined to his room without games or toys, or lose some other privilege that is important to him. Disrespect is never to be tolerated, but conversation and respectful questions can always be encouraged! This respectful approach builds your relationship with your child and grows him or her into a more considerate person.
With perseverance and willing commitment, you can end those feelings of helplessness and frustration in both you and your kids. Loving each other and honoring God together will build a foundation that lasts and create a happier, healthier home life.
Don’t give up; you can do it!